Saturday, October 29, 2011

Stimulating language, learning & creativity in the early years

Meeting Janine Wright

Janine and her 'side kick' Howard
  1. I had the privilege of speaking at the opening of Children's Week at Port Stephens Council this week. The opening included a wonderful display of art from children's services in the region. One of the providers of day care also spoke of her work with children at Boat Harbour (a place as beautiful as the name suggests). It seemed to me that the art and craft of Janine's children, demonstrated exactly what I had just spoken about. My emphasis was that we should create environments that:
Enrich communication and made space & time for it
Are filled with story telling
Allow children to draw, sing, talk, act, make things, dress up and so on.
Provide opportunities for response to things they experience, hear, read and view.
Offer rich experiences that encourage them to find out, seek solutions and solve problems.
Encourage rich use of language, word play, rhyme, song, counting games etc.
Give frequent opportunities for children to read and be read to.
Provides time for children to explore their world within the confines of a safe space that has supervised boundaries.
Offer lots of opportunities for both structured and unstructured play.
Give fantasy an important place through books, film craft and inventive play situations.
Some of the Boat Harbour Art and Craft

What impressed me about the art and craft at Boat Harbour was that:
  • The children generally initiated it
  • Each example was associated with a great deal of language
  • The art and craft was often a response to learning or led to new learning
  • The children utilized a variety of media and resources, some of which they collected themselves

This is Finn's representation of the world and its diverse people. Finn (aged 5) drew the pictures and planned the world of people. Janine volunteered to cut them out .
Janine & Howard had a meal of mussels; the children used the shells to create this special underwater world
The children made these fish to show what happens if we pollute our seas

A woollen spider web in response to some work with spiders

Visiting Boat Harbour

Janine's Day Care service is in a home rented from one of the parents. It has been made secure and inspected to ensure that it complies with all safety, care and educational requirements. We soon met the children and were shown around. "Come and see our school bus, you steer it from here". "This is my fairy garden that I'm making". "Look I can hide in here". The building was filled with resources and materials that the children could choose pretty much when they wanted to. There was maximum freedom to move from one zone to the next with the children setting much of the agenda for learning. Janine shared, "my job is to listen well, and build on their ideas and interests". 

The children's representation of their Centre in Boat Harbour
The children had fun with a 'Good luck, bad luck' framework for story writing
'Boots' - Janine used her daughter's boots to inspire some still life art
The birthday board is used to teach maths with a Montessori idea - black beads for months and red ones to represent year
Summing up

The Day Care Centre at Boat Harbour demonstrated many of the things I had spoken about at the launch of Children's Week. Here was a place for children to feel secure, but also a place to learn and interact with others. Janine had created a learning environment where children challenge and enrich each other with their ideas. This is a place where communication, storytelling, creativity, science, maths, play and fantasy are integrated as children explore things together, and develop confidence and self awareness in a secure and supportive environment.

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